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January 19, 2008

The Teen Assassin?

And we think teenagers in America give us headaches! Pakistani security forces arrested a teenager who allegedly helped plot the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, and who reportedly had prepared to meet his own set of virgins during an upcoming Muslim holiday:

Pakistani police have arrested a teenager who was allegedly part of a five-man squad in the plot to kill opposition leader Benazir Bhutto last month, security officials said Saturday.

The suspect, 15-year-old Aitezaz Shah, was arrested from the northwestern city of Dera Ismail Khan on Friday while planning a suicide bombing over the Muslim festival of Ashura, they said on condition of anonymity.

Shah told interrogators he had been part of a back-up team of three bombers who were tasked with killing former premier Bhutto if the original December 27 attack by two men had failed, the officials added. ...

He allegedly said the attackers in the team that killed Bhutto were called Bilal and Ikramullah -- the same names mentioned in an alleged telephone conversation between Mehsud and another militant the day after Bhutto's death.

The Taliban used a 15-year-old for such an important mission? This seems a little difficult to believe -- not impossible, but difficult. Two assassination attempts had already gotten botched, and one might suppose that the Taliban would have wanted to increase the reliability of the teams rather than take a flyer on a teenager, especially on the back-up team.

AFP's sources can't agree on one rather important point: where Shah was during the assassination. One says that Shah was in Rawalpindi where the assassination took place, but the other says the boy told them that he was in South Waziristan. That's a long way to go to provide backup for an assassination plot. If he was going to kill Bhutto in the event of failure of the first team, how was he going to do it -- by ballistic missile?

It sounds as if they caught a boy who has been recruited as cannon fodder for a suicide attack, perhaps one who heard some chatter around the campfire about Bhutto's assassination. Either the boy or the security forces have exaggerated this into making him a mastermind of the murder. If the Taliban in Pakistan now have to rely on 15-year-olds to plot and carry out these kinds of operations, they're much worse off than anyone would have guessed -- and given their recent successes against the Pakistani army, that just doesn't seem to be the case.


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